The last stand: Farewell to Perpetual Groove

Perpetual Groove
Georgia Theatre
Athens, Georgia
April 5, 2013

For many, Perpetual Groove is one-of-a-kind. From East Coast to West Coast and over to Japan, they have created a loyal following with no geographical barriers. Affectionately known as PGroove, they have molded a dedicated fan base with their willingness to be personable, and songwriting/musical abilities that create what can only be likened to a shared consciousness that leaps across age groups and gender.

Sadly, Friday, April 5, 2013, was their swan song – the start of the group’s hiatus due to guitarist Brock Butler’s need for a break to enhance his own health (Butler released a letter to all fans describing the reason for his departure.) The show was held at the heart and soul of PGroove’s territory, Athens, Ga, at the newly rebuilt Georgia Theatre.

pgroove1-AAfter the opening set by Ghost Owl – an electronica trio made up of  PGroove minus Brock Butler – the band was given a plaque listing the statistics of PGroove at GATH: 68 shows (44 sold out), 55,256 tickets sold, and 12,930 minutes of music. The band donated $20,000 dollars for a bathroom project – a.k.a. the shitter show. And June 19, 2009 – a PGroove show that never happened because GATH had a major fire that morning; the band generously donated another $7,332 for the employees after the fire.

Their final performance began with “Crowded Tub,” the lyrics of which could almost be interpreted as alluding to the hiatus. Butler, guitarist and vocalist, was very much in the moment, reminding many of the heart and soul he puts into his performances.

At the top of his game, Butler brought many to tears as he showed one last time how he is the master magician of the band – the wizard; he contributed most of the music and lyrics, and sung 90% of the lines. Albert Suttle, drummer and calm core, provided the steady, solid performance that fans have always appreciated. Adam Perry, bassist and energist, enjoyed the show as much as the audience did, and often one could read in his face that playing music on stage is where he belongs. Matt McDonald, keyboardist and returning member, supplied fans with sounds that brought forth an imagery unique to each individual.

This conclusive end to an era show in Athens brought in fans both new and old – from people who have seen 300 shows to those who had only been to a few. Hugs and tears were exchanged as the musicians on stage reminded us of why we came – to embrace the music and share the experience that is PGroove with friends that have become family.

After “Crowded Tub,” the band played one favorite after another, into “La Case Bien” and “Stealy Man.” “Walking In Place,” where the Reverend Butler usually goes into a monologue, evoked tears with his final speech; he mentioned that he couldn’t think of a finer group of people, and that he held the audience in the highest esteem. “Turn to your friend,” he said, “and then we’ll ask you again if it was alright.” Butler aluded to the fact that maybe they would be together again – as a band and a family – and every fan in that room agreed with that sentiment.

pgroove1-BPGroove delivered more favorites like “Speed Queen,” “Cairo,” “Robot Waltz,” and “Paper Dolls,” and many were grateful that the band broke their declaration of “no repeats” during the final four shows with the ultimate crowd pleaser, “Teakwood Betz.”

Fans raised their voices and sang along to the lyrics of “Three Weeks,” a song that features lyrics some fans may have linked to the way Butler must feel about the ending of the band he created: “I never had the thing I thought I had, the thing that made me think I had it made.”

The most intense part of “Three Weeks,” and for many the heaviest part of the show, came when Brock sang these lyrics from the same song, “I gave all I had, then they showed me the door.” It resonated deeply with many fans because the other members of PGroove are soldiering on without Butler – without a confident vocalist, capable guitarist, or soulful contributor.

The encore, “All My Friends,” had the audience arm in arm, embracing each other as the band performed its last notes for the time being. “Sweet Oblivious Antidote” brought many to tears with the lyrics, “burning so bright no one could see,” as folk were reminded of the band’s personal struggles and internal difficulties, and the reality that a huge chapter in the lives of the band and fans was coming to an end.

Perpetual Groove’s swan song was one of their best, and certainly most heartfelt, performances in recent years. A huge thank you to all that you have done for your fans, your family, and the community of PGroove and a very fond farewell.

Click on the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by Brad Kuntz…